Christian Quotes: Billy Graham

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“We need to encourage new Believers to feed on God’s Word – it is nourishment for the soul.”

Billy Graham

 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4

Letting Go of Stuff

God desires our worship. But what does that mean? 

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional”  and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”                 Matthew 6:19-21

We had a spur-of-the-moment tag sale last weekend. Not much, just a couple pieces of furniture, some china and knick knacks, and lots of books – the remnants of our last “possession purge.”  My daughter and her boyfriend agreed to put everything out and run the sale, and we agreed to let them take the proceeds.

I ended up stepping in to relieve them at one point during the day. I got the pricing instructions ($5 for the American Girl dolls and the coffee table, everything else is best offer!), and sat in one of the lawn chairs. Not long after, a woman pulled over and got out. We exchanged hellos, and she began to pick her way through the items.

As I watched her lift up a ceramic colander, I thought wistfully about how much I had loved the color when I bought it. The blue glass candy holder she checked out next reminded me of my mom – she has a big collection in her house. And so it went, everything the woman touched setting off a memory or association. By the time she decided what to buy, it took me a minute to jump back to the present moment to give her change.

That reminiscing seems to happen whenever I try to thin out our extra stuff. So, as you can imagine, it’s taken quite a while to make any progress. It’s fun to travel down memory lane, but the stroll can make it hard to stay focused on clearing away the clutter.

I’ve often wished I was better at getting rid of outdated or outgrown things. I’ve dreamt of living in a house with open spaces, clear tabletops and an organized basement. But if I ever do get that far, I’m too sentimental to keep it up. The truth is, I like having visual reminders around me of people and moments.

A tag sale, though, is all about letting go of things. It’s handing over those items to strangers who frankly don’t care that my grandmother made pancakes in that mixing bowl every Sunday morning. They wouldn’t be impressed with how long it took me to collect all those figurines, either.

I feel a sadness creep over me while handing something over, as if a sacred stone is changing hands. It’s a folding bleacher seat, for goodness sake! It may be the end of my time with an item, but it will have a new home. My emotional attachment is a bit over the top.

Jesus’ words in Matthew are a gentle reminder to me that whatever possessions I have in this world won’t last. But I can hold the stories of people and moments in my heart forever. And truly, the greatest treasure I have is knowing the One who provides all things for me.

 

One Reason I Love God’s Word

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I think one of the most beautiful things about Scripture is how it continues to speak to us in whatever season we find ourselves. We can always find valuable truths in any Bible book. But I know that God has often directed me to study exactly what I need to learn at any given moment.

I accepted Jesus at age 30, after many years of feeling lonely and lacking hope. During my first  years as a Christian, God knew I needed to learn about who He was and how much He loved me. Verses where God spoke reassurance to people from Job to Hannah soothed my wounded heart and help me let down my defenses.

Later, as I felt more secure in God’s love, I began to work through some of my old hurts. In my self-centered view of things, I cried out to God and questioned Him when I didn’t get what I wanted. The Psalms showed me it was alright to be honest with myself and Him about my feelings and thoughts. And the more I tried to follow David’s example, the more my crying ended up as praise.

With a stronger foundation under my feet, I was ready to grow up a little more in my faith. Proverbs then became a resource for me to learn about how to walk each day as a believer. Paul’s letters reminded me that I am not alone on my journey, and part of my call is to love others. That ignited a desire in me to have more of a servant’s heart.

How about you? Have you ever sensed God “sending” you to a section of Scripture, maybe even before you knew you needed it? Think of it as part of His plan and provision for you!

The ‘Why’ Of Meditation

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As we consider the discipline (and art) of meditating on God’s Word, it’s easy to focus mostly on the how of it. Of course, we need to learn the basics and some practical ideas for approaching this time. But just as important as the how of meditating is the why.

Like I said, for many years I had no idea that God not only approved of meditation, but that He calls us to do it. When I understood that, I plunged into learning the proper methods. I tried so hard to think about scripture that my brain hurt, and each session left me a little tired. That didn’t seem right.

What had happened was that I was so worried about “doing meditation right” that it was nothing more than an  exercise for me, a box on my list of duties that I needed to check off.  The how of it had become my focus, but I also needed a vision as to why mediation was important.

Joshua 1:8 clearly lays out for us both the command to meditate on scripture and what it will do in us and for us as well:

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

This verse really describes a process:

  • Treating God’s Word as important
  • Thinking about God’s Word continually
  • Following God’s Word consistently
  • Experiencing the blessings God’s Word brings into our lives

 

What kind of success should we expect? Well, it’s not so much worldly gain, although when we do things God’s way they tend to go better for us. Think more of the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ the Apostle Paul mentions, like peace, joy, and contentment. This kind of prosperity is longer-lasting and more satisfying to our hearts.

Do you see both the how and the why of meditation? If so, are you setting aside time to practice it?

More On Meditation

 

the-holy-bible-1483623In my last blog, we looked at what it means to meditate in the Christian way – namely. putting our focus on God’s Word. So, is it just a matter of sitting and repeating a scripture over and over again? Well, that can have some benefit. For one thing, you might actually end up memorizing it, and having scripture tucked away in your mind and heart is always a good thing.

But there are other methods of meditating that can be powerful learning tools. One general thing to keep in mind is that you’ll do better with smaller “bites” of scripture – one or just a few verses as opposed to a whole chapter. Many passages are rich in both language and meaning. Trying to handle too much at one time may cause you to miss something valuable.

Once you have a passage to ponder, take some deep breaths to settle yourself. You can close your eyes, or find a scene out your window to watch as long as it doesn’t distract you. I’ve had some great times of meditation sitting out in my backyard. Read through the passage a couple of times, either out loud or to yourself, letting it sink in. Then the fun can begin! Ask yourself some questions:

 

  • What is the litteral meaning of this passage?

 

Some verses, especially narrative style, are pretty self-explanatory. But others are a little harder to define. That’s okay – this is just a starting point to make you more aware of what you’re reading. I sometimes jot down quick notes alongside the verse in my Bible so I don’t forget them.

 

  • Are there any words or phrases that stand out?

 

Scripture contains unfamiliar sayings, poetic imagery and strange prophesies. Rather than letting those scare you off, let them be an invitation to explore the language a little. I often look words up in the Merriam-Webster or Bible dictionary for more clarity.

 

  • Is there a lesson in this passage for me?

 

This step is about applying what you’ve learned in the actual passage. For me, it’s the best way to really understand and remember scripture. God’s Word becomes much more personal and real.

When I have time, I finish up by doing a journal entry. I’ve found that part of the importance of meditating is when I go back later and review all that scripture has revealed. And it reminds me of how much our Heavenly Father wants to give us wisdom and encouragement.

 

Random Thoughts?

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Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”               Colossians 3:2

January is here, and with it the first bite of winter weather. I wore 4 layers out on my morning excusion with Marcie, and still shiverred my way through the yard. As I stood waiting for her to sniff over the leaf pile, I couldn’t help but see my breath, which only added to the sense of utter cold.

It occurred to me in that moment how quickly a single thought impacted how I felt. Seeing the steam led to a grumbly “Man it’s cold!”. Saying that made me more aware of the unhappy situation, and I ended up really focused on it.

Joyce Meyer teaches that our thoughts have power. I’m going to amend that a little and say that we can give our thoughts a lot of power. Basically, how we think often has a lot of sway over our mood and attitude. And I wonder – if that works for the negative, as in my example from today, couldn’t it just as easily work in a positive way?

Yes, it can. And the key lies in what thoughts we’re concentrating on. That sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many thoughts we have that we aren’t even aware of. Any one of them, when strong enough or repeated enough, can take root in our minds and then our hearts. This isn’t a random design flaw in us – we were actually created this way.

The more I understand this truth, the more grateful I am for God’s mercy in providing His Word. From promises to proverbs to parables, scripture is filled with things to think about that bring life and joy. So why would I choose the alternative?

 

Getting Nearer To God’s Word

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All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”                                               2 Timothy 3:16

The Charles Stanley devotional I read this morning was based on this verse. The gist was that God speaks to us today through His Word, and so we need to turn to it regularly. Reading scripture ought to be one of the Christian’s foundational habits, it’s true. In the Bible’s pages, we can find the comfort, insight or sometimes a not-so-subtle nudge we need.

I’d like to say that I’ve always loved digging into scripture – but that wouldn’t be honest. In fact, as a new believer opening up the Bible brought on more anxiety in me than passion. Reading verses, especially in the Old Testament was like trying to decipher some sort of foreign language. And Paul’s letters seemed so dense and wordy – by the time I got to the end of one of his sentences I’d forgotten how it started.

My husband thought it might be helpful to read together, which sounded like a great idea. That lasted about a week. The final straw was having to sound out the genealogy in Numbers 1. As I slowly sounded out “Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai”, my voice took on such an irritated edge that my husband suggested we take a break. We never picked back up, and I have to say it was kind of a relief.

I felt a lot of guilt and condemnation for my lack of zeal about the Bible, and wondered why I had such a problem. Was it my lack of church experience growing up? Or was it my late-in-life conversion at age 30? I wanted to ask advice, but was too embarrassed. Having been a believer for about 20 years now, I’ve come to understand that my issue with God’s Word early on was nothing to be ashamed of. It was simply an indication of how young I was in my faith.

Another aspect to scripture being “God-breathed” is that we need God’s Holy Spirit to understand it. He has filled His Word with treasures, and we need His help to discover them. Yes, learning my way around the Bible was important, as was starting to memorize certain key passages. But it was in asking for His guidance as I read that verses really started coming to life and having deeper meaning.

Do you feel intimidated or overwhelmed by God’s Word? Don’t despair – God intended for you to be blessed by it. As you open your Bible, lift up a quick prayer for His leading. He’ll be delighted to start opening your eyes, mind and heart to the richness that lies in the Book’s pages. This holy habit will begin to ignite passion instead of angst.

Markers

I was thinking this morning about markers. Not pens. I mean the markers we use to define our lives. Specifically, success.

What has marked success for you?

What came to me was how those things that generally mark success in the world – the fame, money, popularity, etc, etc. – sound great but in the end seem to only frustrate and wear us down. As I’m writing this, the phrase in Ecclesiastes has popped into my head – “a chasing after the wind.”

Now, at 50-something, I can say that I have some wisdom in this area. But in my 20’s (and 30’s and 40’s!), I was totally convinced that those very markers were vital to my personal well being. To put it bluntly, not reaching them would mean I was a loser at life.

Here’s just a sampling of my early success markers:

  • World-wide fame and universal love for my performing
  • Lots of money for stuff
  • An executive position at a totally fulfilling job
  • Tons of friends, men admirers and fans

Quite a list, huh? Pie-in-the-sky dreams. But they reflected the best of what the world had to offer. I truly thought marking those items off my list would add to my confidence and self esteem. I would then become a more secure and better person.

As my pastor sometimes says, I “drank the cultural kool aid.”

I understand how it happened: as a child I learned that to be accepted was many times dependent on impressing others. And the world offered all sorts of glittery, shiny markers to prove my worth. Suffering from low self esteem and an overambitious nature, I really applied myself to the task.

You can guess how well all that striving worked for me.

So if those don’t work, what will? Well, I finally asked what God’s markers are for success. The basic list is pretty short:

  • Love and Worship Him
  • Love His people
  • Repeat daily

I was excited this morning to realize that over the last few years God has taken those old markers and filtered them through His. Let me share my new list:

  • Bless others with my gifts
  • Have enough money to take care of my family and faithfully give
  • Work with excellence wherever He puts me
  • Serve others and help them know how special they are

How has God redefined success for you?